Next-gen SMT line provides more flexibility
Rapier Electronics provides prototyping and production solutions for electrical assemblies. From simple rework and repair to full turnkey production services, the company caters for low- to high-volume projects as well as offering design and consulting expertise.
While high-volume manufacturing has largely moved offshore in recent years, the demand for local prototyping and low-volume production continues to gain popularity. Companies wanting quicker turnaround times and greater control over intellectual property is resulting in an increased demand for local contract electronics manufacturers.
In early 2015, Rapier decided to review its business model to ensure it had the flexibility to service a wider range of customers with more diverse production needs. At the time, the company was running two surface mount technology (SMT) production lines: one running a Juki 700 series pick-and-place machine and the other running a Juki 2060RL series machine. Both lines were running Omniflow5 reflow ovens.
While the two lines could pick and place up to a combined ~15,000 components per hour (CPH) and handle a maximum PCB board size of 510 x 460 mm, it was limiting Rapier’s ability to keep pace with its customers’ demands. It was clear that Rapier needed to upgrade its SMT capabilities if it wanted to maintain and grow the business: the company required a solution that could provide in excess of 35,000+ CPH and place a wider variety of components.
As well as looking at newer Juki machines, Rapier consulted with a number of SMT equipment suppliers, including Hawker Richardson. While there were multiple solutions on the market that could meet Rapier’s initial requirements, only a YAMAHA solution offered by Hawker Richardson provided increased feeder capacity and flexibility, electric ‘smart’ feeders and user-friendly programming features that allowed for the quick turnaround of jobs.
The YAMAHA i-PULSE M20 pick-and-place machine provided Rapier with everything it needed in one flexible solution with either 144 or 180 electric feeders on one single machine. It was the preferred choice over the pigeon-pair mode of operation offered by Juki pick-and-place machines. Long-term serviceability will also be improved by operating only one machine type while losing nothing in capability over the old-style pigeon-pair solution.
As an added bonus, the YAMAHA i-PULSE M20 pick-and-place machines could handle PCB boards from 50 x 30 mm to 1.5 m x 510 mm. They also provided standard board warpage detection and force control for placing connectors.
After considerable research and consideration, Rapier decided to replace its main SMT line with a YAMAHA solution consisting of:
- two YAMAHA i-PULSE M20 pick-and-place machines with tray cart;
- one Heller 1707 MK3 lead-free reflow oven;
- Nutek inline conveyors.
Hawker Richardson managed the entire installation and commissioning process and had the new line up and running within three days. Full training was provided by experienced Hawker Richardson staff and ongoing support and servicing continues. Arrangements were made for Rapier’s existing SMT machines to be sold through second-hand SMT sales equipment specialist Resurface.
Since commissioning, the line has been operational without fault. Rapier now has an SMT production line that will grow with the business for the next 10 to 15 years and cater for almost any requirement its customers have. And with other local manufacturers (private and defence) using Hawker Richardson-supplied YAMAHA and i-PULSE machines, Rapier also has the reassurance of Hawker Richardson’s local service and support team.
Throughput on the new line has effectively tripled, reducing the time taken to complete production runs. This has allowed the sales team to go out and chase new business that was previously unachievable.
“As an SMT production contractor, it’s important that we can cater for any need our customers have,” said Rapier Electronics Director Tom Rae. “Whether it’s creating a one-off prototype on a single board to production runs of thousands of units, we need to be able to cater for it all. This new line gives us that ability.”
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